The Pogues star Shane MacGowan, best known for Christmas hit Fairytale Of New York, dies at 65
Musician and singer Shane MacGowan, best known as the frontman of The Pogues, has died at the age of 65.
His wife Victoria Mary Clarke said in a post on Instagram: “Shane will always be the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love of my life.”
The Irish star had suffered from several health issues in recent years.
Born in Kent on Christmas Day in 1957, MacGowan will forever be associated with the festive period thanks to The Pogues’ 1987 hit, Fairytale Of New York, featuring the late Kirsty MacColl.
Throughout the 1980s and early ’90s, the band also had hits including Dirty Old Town, The Irish Rover, A Pair Of Brown Eyes and A Rainy Night In Soho.
MacGowan was a punk rebel, almost as famous for his drinking and drug taking – and for the toll it took on his teeth – as he was for his music. But he was a gifted storyteller from a young age, winning a Daily Mirror literary prize when he was 13, and a scholarship to Westminster School for his essays.
“I didn’t last there very long,” he told the Guardian in a 2013 interview. “I got nicked for smoking a joint and was kicked out.”
He had been unwell in recent years, receiving treatment in hospital for encephalitis in December 2022, and spending time in intensive care in the summer. He was back in hospital in November, with former bandmates Spider Stacy and Terry Woods among those who visisted him.
MacGowan had also used a wheelchair since 2015 following several falls, breaking his pelvis and then his right knee.
The singer married his long-term partner, journalist Victoria Mary Clarke, at a ceremony in Copenhagen in 2018, with his friend Johnny Depp playing guitar at their wedding.
Writing for the Irish Independent ahead of their nuptials, about the first time she met MacGowan at the age of 16, Clarke said she was “awe-struck”, before going on to detail a complicated relationship that “makes the Fairytale Of New York couple from Shane’s Christmas song seem tame and orderly”.
She said: “When you meet ‘The One’, you have a choice. You can dive in, marry them while you are infatuated with each other and hope for the best. Or you can wait until you are sure that the honeymoon phase has worn off and you are seeing each other in the light of having lived, no longer young, beautiful and indestructible.”
Raye on the fight to release debut album My 21st Century Blues: ‘It’s been a real wild journey’
In 2021, Raye parted ways with her label after claiming on social media that she had been held back from releasing an album. Now, she is a record-breaking Brits nominee with a number one single and MOBO and Ivor Novello awards under her belt. Here is our interview with the star from January 2023, in which she spoke candidly about the fight to make music on her own terms.
Raye is gaining her power back. Not just from the industry that made her feel “mediocre” for so many years, but over past traumas she kept bottled up for a long time.
“Some of my closest friends didn’t even know some of the stuff I’m discussing on my album,” she tells Sky News. “It’s probably the most honest I’ve been. It’s deep and it’s real.”
Raye, real name Rachel Keen, is only 25 but already a music industry veteran; a platinum-selling performer and a songwriter with credits for everyone from Charli XCX and Little Mix to John Legend and Beyonce.
She was just 15 when she released her first song and 17 when all her dreams came true, in the form of a four-album contract with record label Polydor. But after years of what seemed to be a successful career as a vocalist collaborating mainly on other artists’ dance hits, in 2021 she posted a string of tweets claiming the label was holding her back from releasing her own album.
“I’m done being a polite pop star,” she wrote, her frustration and anger palpable. The singer says after years of “trying to make it work”, she had reached the point where she had nothing to lose. “You get to that breaking point, really.”
Shortly after her tweets, it was announced she and Polydor were parting ways, with the label saying the decision had been “amicable and mutual” and wishing her “all the very best for the future”.
Fast-forward to now and Raye is in a very different place; making music as an independent artist, in January 2023 she topped the UK charts for the first time with viral hit Escapism. The following month, the debut album she fought so hard to make, My 21st Century Blues, charted at number two. No longer pigeonholed or stifled, this is the real Raye, she says, and it’s been a long time coming.
“The album is discussing a lot of different topics… the deepest depths of really ugly stories about assaults and body dysmorphia and environmental anxiety. I think there’s no limit on what I’ve really spoken on in terms of my perspective on my blues as a woman in the 21st Century.”
‘It’s things I’ve been silent about for so long’
Always outspoken, Raye is not an artist who sticks to trotting out lines of approved PR-speak when she’s being interviewed, and this candidness is evident throughout her music. “Being real and transparent is really important to me, to skip out metaphors and similes and cut straight to the point of what I’m talking about,” she says. “Some of these things I haven’t also entirely healed from.
“It’s definitely going to be a rollercoaster for sure, but one that I’m making the decision to go on. That’s kind of the artist I like to be, transparent, honest. I think that’s what I’m like in real life.”
One song, Ice Cream Man, deals with sexual assault. “It’s things I’ve been silent about for so long and swallowed for so long and self-managed for so long in non-constructive ways,” she says.
“I’ve written pretty transparently about sexual violence… multiple things that occur in a life that you just bury, bury down, hide in a box, don’t tell anyone. And it just festers and manipulates itself into something quite ugly.”
As with Escapism, a dark electro banger about using alcohol, drugs and casual sex as coping mechanisms for dealing with emotional pain, the album is a contrast of often melancholy or dark lyrics, with beats that will fill a dance floor, as well as a range of genres.
“You’ve got songs with a contrasting sonic landscape,” she says. “I find it really exciting to tell a story and then the music feel the opposite so I think there’s a lot of juxtaposition there.”
Irony in its ‘most hilarious and ridiculous form’
Escapism’s success feels ironic to Raye. “With the previous music, not in a bad way, but it was more about the song than about the artist. The big dance songs or whatever, they don’t necessarily say anything about me as a person. I never necessarily wanted to be someone who did huge, huge hits, but without depth and substance or discussing things I’m passionate about, or breaking a couple of rules.
“Escapism is such a personal story. It’s kind of dark. It’s extremely explicit and honest and raw… I really told myself on the beginning of this next chapter, I’m not creating music with the intent or purpose to sell loads of copies, it’s about integrity and telling these uncomfortable stories that I think are really important.
“I had all the preparation in the world for building a small, steady fanbase bit by bit, and to not expect anything in terms of mainstream reflection. So this is like irony in its most hilarious and ridiculous form, that this is the biggest song of my entire career.”
Despite it not necessarily being the plan, she admits topping the charts does feel like vindication.
“[I feel] like anything is possible and I was right to back myself,” she says. “Never give up on your dreams. For someone who [felt] so, like, mediocre and… such a disappointment, actually, for so long, to just receive all the affirmation in the world that I was right to back my music is just…”
She doesn’t need to finish the sentence. “For someone who puts words together for a living, I don’t necessarily really have the best words to describe how crazy this is.”
‘Fear is the driving factor of secrets’
Emboldened, Raye says artists need to speak out more about the inner workings of the industry. And despite moves to improve diversity and equality making headlines in recent years, she says misogyny is still rife.
“We do need to be telling these stories more,” she says. “I think things that happen in the darkness have so much more power than they do when they’re brought out to the light, you know? Fear is the driving factor of secrets, and truths and stories being withheld. But there is still that very sad view that women need to be guided and controlled and taught and given instructions to follow and meet these requirements.”
She sighs. “I don’t know… I think it’s probably the same for all artists but especially for women, especially for everything I’ve witnessed in 10 years in the industry. I think a lot needs to change, but I don’t think anything will truly be equal and fair until we’ve got the same amount of female CEOs as we do male CEOs, we’ve got the same amount of female staff working a video shoot as male staff, the same amount of female A&Rs, and the same amount of, you know, different ethnicities in these same roles.
“Balance overall is so important, and until we have that, there’s always going to be issues and problems when you have men deciding what they think is best for women.”
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Raye is looking to the future. She says she has had little communication with her former label bosses since she left, but wants to make it clear it wasn’t all bad. There were “some great people there who really believed in me… but obviously it came down to the big people making big decisions”, she says.
I ask her about the artwork for My 21st Century Blues. It features a little girl, dressed for the workplace but teetering in red stilettos hanging off her heels, standing atop a pile of instruments and recording equipment bearing the names of her songs, grabbing hands reaching out from inside. It feels poignant.
“That’s actually my baby sister on top of that big structure we built,” says Raye. “But that little girl up there is me, you know, seven years old, wide-eyed with a dream, not realising what the next 10 or 15 years of my life would be like.
“All the different life – in the industry and out of the industry – that I’ve had to navigate, process, understand, learn in my transition to being a woman, to being an artist, to being an independent artist. It’s been a real wild journey.”
Raye’s debut album, My 21st Century Blues, is out now
Edward Burtnysky on climate crisis: ‘We should be screaming fire… but we’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic’
Photographer Edward Burtynsky says people should be “screaming 10 alarm fire right now,” due to the urgency of the climate crisis. Instead, he says “it still feels like we’re rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”.
The 69-year-old Canadian artist has re-invented landscape photography, spending the last 40 years documenting man’s dominance over the planet.
He explores human impact across the world – in all its beauty and bleakness.
But does he see any conflict in creating beautiful images documenting such devastating impact on the earth?
He tells Sky News: “My work is revelatory, not accusatory.
“Every living species takes something from nature to survive, and we as a top predator, take quite a bit from nature to survive.
“All these things I’m showing would be perfectly fine if there were one billion human beings on the planet. The fact that there’s eight billion makes it a problem. It’s just too much of a good thing.”
His large-scale panoramas both celebrate and question human ingenuity, challenging his audience to look beyond their backyard.
They also act as a critical reminder of what could be at stake without urgent changes to the way we use the planet’s resources.
Born in Ukraine, Burtynsky’s parents moved to Canada after the Second World War. His father – who gave him his first camera as a child – died when he was just 15.
Precipices and helicopters
The necessity to earn enough money to allow him to study photography led him to find work in big industry, working in both the auto and mining industries as a young man.
“I moved far north and worked in big mines. And I got to see those worlds, first-hand. And I think it was that kind of opening my eyes to this other world that gave me the idea that most people haven’t really seen these worlds”.
Progressing from standing on the edges of perilous quarries and mines to get his shots (admitting, “my mother didn’t approve, it was sort of dangerous”), he now uses helicopters to get his aerial images.
Over four decades, his photography has seen him travel to multiple countries across every continent (except for Antarctica), with his works included in the collections of more than 60 museums around the world.
Disappearing rivers of ice
His recent trip to photograph the Coast mountains of British Columbia, Canada, for his latest exhibition – New Works – was a stark reminder of a swiftly changing world.
From his bird’s eye view, he could see the glaciers – which date as far back as 150,000 years – had receded dramatically compared with 20 years ago because of warming as a result of human activity.
Not only a visible measure of man’s impact on the environment, the disappearing rivers of ice will go on to impact the ecosystems that rely on their meltwater.
He admits it’s sometimes frustrating trying to relay the urgency of the climate emergency message.
‘Our legacy is troubled’
“We have this particular moment in time and things are evolving rapidly. I’m trying to invoke a sense of urgency out there… This is actually scientifically being charted and we’re pretty good at predicting what to expect.”
His environmental message – which is his life’s passion – is deeply held.
“I have two daughters and I want them to have a chance to have a family, too. So, if you know, the legacy that we’re leaving behind is troubled.
But his ecological vigour is also rooted within his personal knowledge of big industry. He says our use of the world’s most valuable resources is not something that can just stop, but instead needs careful planning, with alternative energy incentivisation, to help us transition to more sustainable methods.
So, what’s his view on the growing army of climate activists drawing attention to the cause by doing ever more extreme things to hit the headlines – particularly when that involves demonstrations in art galleries?
‘I understand the frustration’
“I understand why culture and the arts in particular can be a target, and somebody trying to bring attention through art celebrity. And that’s what’s happening, they’re taking a famous painting and throwing some paint on it… Or gluing themselves…
“I would think that demonstrating in front of the companies that are causing the problem might be a better place – to go direct to the source of the problem. But I understand the frustration.”
As for the renewed scrutiny on the source of funding for some of our big arts institutions, including galleries and museums accepting money from big oil companies, he says it’s a tricky path to navigate.
‘Be careful what you wish for’
“The line in a way is dangerous because you can all of a sudden find out that culture is no longer viable.
“I think as well, the oil companies have to transition, and they can do a lot to make a difference.
“We still need oil in the meantime until the transition occurs, [and we should] be careful what we wish for, because if all of a sudden the oil stopped tomorrow, I’d call that anarchy.
“We wouldn’t have food coming into the cities. We wouldn’t have transport working, everything would come to a screeching halt. So we are, unfortunately, still bound to that energy source for the foreseeable future.”
Part of that future, he believes, lies in the essential role that art can play in raising ecological awareness.
‘There’s still time’
“Artists have a role and creativity has a huge role in the future, because we have to reinvent our world. We have to find a world that isn’t built on this consumer culture saying the more stuff I own, the happier I am.
“I think everybody’s finding that that’s a bit of a shallow value system that may have been sold to us by some very influential advertising campaigns.”
So, should viewers of his work feel optimistic or pessimistic on leaving the gallery?
“I hope people can walk away saying there’s still time to do something.
“I think pessimism tends to lead to cynicism that nothing will work, so [people think] ‘Why should I bother? I’ll just carry on business as usual’. And I don’t think that’s the right attitude.”
But alongside that optimism, Burtynsky’s clear-eyed on the challenges the world is facing.
Atmospheric rivers, water bombs and heat domes
“The storms are coming – we’re hearing all kinds of new terminology: ‘Atmospheric rivers’; ‘water bombs’ – these the massive amounts of water hitting a city all at once; ‘heat domes’. All of these new terms to try and describe what’s coming.
“The fire seasons have already started early, Texas is having one of its worst fire seasons ever, and it’s a month and a half, two months early.”
He concludes: “It’s a question of how quickly we’re able to cease and desist the worst activity that we’re doing, which I’d say right now is CO2 loading in the atmosphere and is our most immediate problem.
“We’ve got a lot of problems, and I think if people are going to act, they need to act. The time for words is way over.”
Edward Burtynsky New Works is showing at Flowers Gallery until 6 April.
A retrospective of his work, Extraction /Abstraction, is showing at the Saatchi Gallery until 6 May.
Watch the full interview on The Climate Show with Tom Heap, Saturday and Sunday at 3.30 and 7.30pm on Sky News.
Iris Apfel, fashion icon and businesswoman, dies aged 102
American fashion icon and businesswoman Iris Apfel has died at her home in Palm Beach, Florida aged 102.
The news was confirmed on her social media accounts in the early hours of Saturday morning and confirmed by her agent, who called her “extraordinary” and said he was the personification of style.
No cause of death was given. She was last pictured celebrating the Leap Year on Thursday – which also fell on her 102nd-and-a-half birthday.
Born in New York in 1921, Ms Apfel was primarily an interior designer and and became a moderate public figure thanks to a contract that saw her and her husband Carl consult on interiors for the White House for six presidents.
But later in life, she captured attention through her colourful bohemian style – wearing irreverent, eye-catching outfits, mixing haute couture and oversized costume jewellry.
Ms Apfel’s fame blew up in 2005 when the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City hosted a show about her called Rara Avis – Latin for rare bird.
She referred to herself as a “geriatric starlet”, she also regularly appeared in the style pages of the New York Times, was photographed for Vogue Magazine and featured in adverts for Coach, MAC Cosmetics and Kate Spade.
Ms Apfel amassed more than three million followers on Instagram and another 215,000 followers on Instagram.
She also designed a line of accessories and jewellry for the US Home Shopping Network, collaborated with H&M on a sold-out-in-minutes collection of brightly-coloured apparel, jewellry and shoes, put out a makeup line with Ciaté London, an eyeglass collection with Zenni and partnered with Ruggable on floor coverings.
Her style was also the subject of a documentary film, Iris, directed by Albert Maysles.
Ms Apfel was pre-deceased by her husband Carl, who died in 2015 aged 100.
She was also an expert on textiles and antique fabrics, and with Carl, owned a textile manufacturing company, Old World Weavers, and specialised in restoration work, including projects at the White House under six different US presidents. Ms Apfel’s celebrity clients included Estee Lauder and Greta Garbo.
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